Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fish in the Net

(In response to

and the original article "KEANU REEVES IS JESUS"

by Doug Brunell.)

This is an analysis of writer Doug Brunell. From the photograph he so willingly splashes across his various Internet profiles, we observe that he wears a hoodie, shades, and a beard. Hoodie aside, this may, ladies, gentlemen and genderqueer folk, remind you of a certain other - albeit far more intelligent, humble, and all-around-awesome - individual named Keanu Charles Reeves, also known reverently as 'The Anu', whom Mr. Brunell here is obviously trying to emulate on some level. Sure, he may deny this, and of course he will, seeing as how two of his entries on Film Threat seem to suggest an angrily-hidden panic which he has tried desperately to bury beneath infantile humour, condescending digs at Keanu fans, and terrible T-shirt design.

As an example of the alleged hate mail that he received, Mr. Brunell lets us know about one by 'Keanu McFall' that started with, "Doug Brunell is a fag". I am sure you are as horrified as I am at the maliciousness of this insult - surely such a person as Mr. Brunell can have no association with the wonderful gays! He does, however, seem particularly obsessed with this particular writer, mentioning that he called him a fag not one but two times, and the fact that he focusses on this one letter out of the many more he claims to have received shows a rather disturbing preoccupation with people's opinions of his sexuality. Perhaps well earned, for how many people are aware of the number of films in Ron Jeremy's oeuvre?

(Let's not even mention his telling usage of the phrase "a fucking Einstein" elsewhere in his article. Mr. Albert Einstein is known for many things - you may recall a thinking Einstein, an intelligent Einstein, a scientific Einstein, a dying Einstein... but a fucking Einstein? Such is the curse of contemporary society; even dead scientists have their sex lives open to mockery. What happened to basic human decency and respect for the dead?)

We note also how Mr. Brunell chooses to counter McFall's letter primarily by targetting his intelligence and immaturity, citing how his letter "took [him] back to grade school". As many of you esteemed Internet users know, there are many bona fide grade school students on the Internet. I know a six year old - a cousin of a friend - who has a blog. In short, we can conclude that either Mr. Brunell is a pathetic coward who gets kicks out of mocking little children, or his regular association with immature adults, possibly including himself, has made him naturally assume that all other adults are just like that.

We now move on to the actual article that started all this. In the opening paragraph, Mr. Brunell outs himself as a masochist. First he states his hate for the The Anu. He then goes on to say that he has been in "exactly one worthwhile movie... ever". We shall now observe a period of awestruck silence at the self-hating bravery* of Mr. Brunell: the endless torture he must have endured while forcing himself to sit through film after film of an actor he claims to so vehemently dislike to the point of wanting him crucified. He says he dies a little bit every time he sees him on the screen, and yet he has sat through every single one of his films. Wow. But then we remember the hoodie, and conclude that Mr. Brunell must be an emo. Suddenly the pieces fall into place.

(*Take note also of the bit where we call him a coward. Man, this guy has issues. And not good ones you can read, like issues of Empire magazine.)

And then Mr. Brunell's preoccupation with alternative sexuality rears its metaphorical head again. He describes The Anu's hand as 'neatly manicured'; how many non-androphiliacs notice the hands of men? Precious few, I would imagine. This is a tragic day for the glorious gay community; it looks as though Mr. Brunell may in fact be one of them after all. But for the moment, the depth of his denial is apparent. Note the sentence (with regard to Neo bringing Trinity back to life by massaging her heart) - "If that isn't every woman's fantasy -- and some men's -- I don't know what is".

His obvious lack of imagination aside, by way of simple statistical analysis (where the majority of the population is heterosexual), he seems to consider this fantasy to be of a sexual nature, hence the mention of "every" woman and "some" men. We see how he takes care to remember the existence of men who would love Keanu to stick his hand into their bodies and massage their hearts, but neglects that of women who would not. Does he ignore the existence of lesbians and asexuals and those who prefer to fornicate with animals? In the case of lesbians, how many straight men are in the habit of pretending that they do not exist? And yet neither can one put this down to a strictly heterosexist worldview, because, again, he does mention the homosexually-inclined segment of the male population. Interesting.

In a continuing trend, Mr. Brunell also displays a constant ignorance of the difference between fiction and reality, repeatedly conflating The Anu with Neo, the equally-awesome character whom he played. It is evident that Mr. Brunell spends a significant amount of his time in a rather disturbing fantasy world in which he is America's favourite son, and where he often contemplates in high detail how he would like to murder The Anu. He already has the hammer and nails. Why is this guy allowed to roam free?

Mr. Brunell, if you are reading this and are up to the intellectual challenge of Internet debate, we would love to hear your input. Perhaps you could educate us further on your undoubtedly interesting mental state.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
The Keanu SWAT Team.
Whoa is (Not) Me: Defending Keanu Reeves

P.S. Mr. Brunell, this post uses British spelling. If you think some words are spelt wrong (such as 'spelt'), they probably aren't.

P.P.S. LucaM of the Keanu SWAT Team would also like to add that you are a 'sad, pathetic punk'.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thought experiment, and a summary of all the Keanu Reeves bashing you'll ever hear

Imagine there's no misinformation.

No faulty assumptions, no false conclusions,
no illogical arguments that do not follow,
no blind, stubborn adherence to ungrounded opinion;

What would be left?

It's not just about Keanu Reeves any more. I mean, yeah, drawing that link is what led to this post - the realisation that perhaps as many as 80% of insults slung at Mr. Reeves are in some way or other factually incorrect. Very few are actual, genuine opinions about his acting ability (or lack thereof, as they would claim). The majority tend to revolve around one or more of the following:

1) His perceived lack of intelligence, despite all evidence pointing to him being an extremely intelligent individual overflowing with eccentric genius; and the insults resulting from that

2) His alleged single expression persistent throughout all his films (what exactly this expression is, curiously, no one seems to agree on), definitely disproven with photographic evidence

3) Keanu allegedly playing the same character in every single one of his films. I don't even know how to argue against this, for the simple reason that it seems so self-evident that his characters are far, far, far from being anything alike. Donnie Barksdale and Neo, Jack Traven and David Allen Griffin, Klaatu and Johnny Utah, Alex Wyler and Marlon James, Ted Logan and everyone... COME ON, PEOPLE.

4) His supposed habit of saying 'whoa' in every single one of his films - completely disproven. On last count, he's said the word possibly only in four of his films out of 54, the most being 16 times in the first Bill & Ted, an unknown number in the second Bill & Ted, followed by 5 times in Point Break, most of those yelled while falling off a surfboard.

(Sidetrack: What is the best thing to yell when falling off a surfboard?
1) "Oh look, old chap, I appear to be falling off a surfboard."
2) "To be or not to be, that is the question."

Heck, there are at least three Keanu films (The Devil's Advocate, Something's Gotta Give and The Replacements) in which the script had 'whoa's, and Keanu said none of them.

And that was a maximum of 16 in the first Bill & Ted; as I have pointed out before, Michael J. Fox (who is awesome) said 'whoa' 22 times in the first Back to the Future (best movie ever). That's 6 whole more 'whoa's than Keanu, and yet for some reason no one has labelled him the whoa guy.

...I'm only deliberating on this point this much because it spawned the namesake of our website.

5) Keanu's alleged aboreal composition. I'm pretty sure that he is completely human, and not a tree, and/or made of wood. For a more in-depth argument, see the following:

"How Keanu is Not a Plank of Wood"

"How Keanu is Not a Tree"

"How Keanu is Not an Ent"

6) Keanu being American and ruining movies with his Americanness and lack of British accent. He's a dual citizen - Canadian-British. Posts whose entire main argument revolve around Keanu being American (mostly those by angry Hellblazer fans) are therefore - in short - rather odd.

7) Keanu trying to act his way out of a variety of interesting objects, such as paper bags. Joke only works if the premise is there, i.e. the assumption that Keanu is a bad actor. But there's no substantiation for that premise save the previous 6 points, all disproven.

(Though, playing safe as usual, here are the rebuttals for:

"Keanu can't act his way out of a paper bag"

"Keanu can't act his way out of a wet paper bag"

"Keanu can't act his way out of a perforated paper bag")

8) That Keanu ruined all the movies he was in. Many of his films would never even have gotten off the ground if not for Keanu. Like, say, The Matrix, and Thumbsucker. Or would never have got the high-profile costars and therefore the A-list status they did - The Replacements (Gene Hackman), A Scanner Darkly (Robert Downey Jr.), The Devil's Advocate (Al Pacino), actors who only joined the project either because Keanu deferred his salary towards them or because they were interested in working with him. Or would have been a completely different entity - Speed, the script of which was entirly rewritten. Or would have left out crucial bits - The Day the Earth Stood Still, which for all its flaws only retained the line 'Klaatu barada nikto' because Keanu insisted on it.

And the many other films (Feeling Minnesota, Sweet November, Hardball, etc) where Keanu fought to preserve their artistic integrity in the face of censorship, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing (Johnny Mnemonic, which Tristar allegedly completely destroyed by editing it to become a wholly different film than the one intended.

For an example of how crucial editing can be and how much it can completely change a film, I present to you this (hilarious) alternate ending to Speed -> (and the other two versions linked there if you're interested).

9) Keanu surviving 20+ years in Hollywood based solely on his looks. Given the hundreds of pretty people constantly trying to edge their way into Hollywood, only to end up in C-movies where they make out, scream a lot and get eaten by CGI monsters to be forgotten forever, I don't know where they get this idea. Especially not for a career half as long as Keanu's. Hollywood is seriously competitive. If you don't make the cut, you're out. Ridiculously good-looking A-listers drop off the radar every year. Whereas Keanu has survived a quarter century in there, and is still going strong.

What makes this all the more aggravating are the whole lots of people all over the place (e.g. my mother) who swear that Keanu is located somewhere on the spectrum between below-average-looking to ugly. You lot, talk to the first lot. Thank you.

10) Keanu being some sort of filthy rich, spoilt, bimbotic, vain, egotistic movie star in written depictions of him that run so completely contrary to what anyone who has done the slightest bit of research on Keanu would know him to be like. And then they bash him based on these false constructs, fellow fish agreeing and patting each other on the back.

In counterargument,


So with all that gone, if everyone were to know and see for themselves that their points have all been disproven, what is left?

It's frustrating; we aren't defending Keanu against opinions, we're defending him against factually disprovable claims, the falsity of which should be so obvious to anyone who actually bothers to think about what they're writing and do the most basic of research. And yet it still proliferates.

And how does one argue against statements that go:

"he sucks lol"
"Worst actor ever"
"A cabbage could act better than Keanu lol"
"noooooooooo if keanu is in this i will kill myself"
"whoa, duuude, like... whoa."

When pressed, most of them just run away and take their senseless insults to another part of the Internet. It's a whole Keanu-bashing-culture that thrives on nothing more than persistent misconceptions and a bandwagon that, unfortunately, has no bomb on it.

And as I started off this post by saying - it's not just Keanu. It's everything else. Politics, religion, simple disagreements - so much of it is based on nothing more than complete and/or wilful ignorance of the other side, a lack of knowledge of what they are arguing about or against.

So many conflicts could be solved in this world if people actually bothered to find out the truth and hold it in higher regard than meaningless conjecture.

Because people do, ultimately, make sense. That's just buried beneath mounds of crap and a dogged persistence in believing that people who disagree with them are stupid and therefore must have stupid reasons to believe the things they do. And so they come up with those stupid reasons and then laugh at them as they knock the strawmen down, setting up and reinforcing walls where there had been none, digging divides deeper with every false statement, the other side then rushing to defend themselves with more false assumptions about that first side, and so it goes on and on in a stupid vicious cycle.

To make a couple of quick points related to this (if you're here for the Keanu, the Keanu is over, you may leave, thanks for dropping by, comments would be nice):

1) Nobody believes that "God put dinosaur bones into the Earth to trick us". Nobody. Well, maybe a handful, but only because for any given belief you can probably find at least one person who accepts it as fact. Either way, they are definitely not common, and definitely not representative of the entire Christian population (let alone the entire religious population). So far, the only people I hear this particular gem from are those out to show the supposed ridiculousness of religion, and make up things like that - often repeated from other sources, so it's not wholly their fault - despite no one actually believing those things.

2) Stem cells are not obtained by killing newborn babies or forced abortions. Currently, research is done with left-over embryos from fertilisation clinics that would otherwise be destroyed. It is disturbing how many debates on this topic somehow end up with one side vocally declaring that it is wrong to kill babies - which isn't even the issue at hand - while the other side attempts to look cool and calm and go on about the scientific merits of stem cell research. And nobody bothers to correct the first group, nobody bothers to realise that anyone who was told that stem cells are obtained by murder would naturally feel some revulsion to the whole thing, because it's always more fun to laugh at people.

3) Screw this.

Good night everyone.

Last point - Star Trek 2009 is awesome, if you haven't seen it, watch it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Strange Case of the Fish in the Internets

Okay, so I guess I was naive. The first time a couple days ago I heard that Keanu Reeves was to be casted in the new Jekyll and Hyde film, I thought it was amazingly brilliant casting and that this could possibly turn out to be his best performance ever in which he finally shows the world what he can do and has been doing all these years despite them refusing to see it.

Naturally - though I have no idea how - I had forgotten about the fish. (For the uninitiated, -> A Database of Fish) All of them out there in their little ponds all over the Internet, making highly unoriginal comments about how the actor with no personality was going to be portraying a character with two, taking the usual digs at his perceived lack of range, and bringing up the ever-present Bram Stoker's Dracula of 1992 to prove their points.

What I find deeply ironic is how, from their statements, these were a mixture of Tedfish and Neofish - the folks who insist that Keanu always plays Ted, and the ones who insist that he always plays Neo. These were the people simultaneously complaining in each others' presence that Keanu plays the same character in every one of his films. The irony kills me.

I've said it before, and I'll continue to stand firm by my belief that - from my point of view as a writer - Keanu has one of the widest range of characters I've seen in any actor, and I have no idea how so few other people are able to see it.

Admittedly, most of them have barely watched any of his films despite thinking that they have. For the record, mathematically-speaking, you have only seen "most" of Keanu's films if you've seen more than 27 of them (and this is excluding his short films and TV work), which I'm pretty sure would make you some sort of fan whether or not you wish to admit it. I don't know many people who would sit through more than 27 films of an actor whose acting they claim to despise.

I read Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" a few years ago and loved it, and I honestly think that Keanu can pull it off, and do it well. He might not, depending on the script and direction. But I believe he could. The potential is definitely there. He's practically based a large part of his career off Jekyll-like characters: tormented, conflicted good people - River's Edge, Under the Influence, Hardball, Constantine, and a bunch of other roles that I shan't list for spatial reasons - and he's shown himself also capable of portraying a far darker, violent side; someone recently mentioned how all his best performances involved characters who had some sort of dark streak. - Speaking of which, I just watched The Gift. Uneven performance near the start but the courtroom scene was brilliant. Methinks Hyde is kind of like Donnie Barksdale on steroids.

(In a recent article, someone said that they thought Keanu would do fine as Hyde and that it would be Dr. Jekyll who would pose him the real challenge, seeing as how he's a scientist and all. 'cuz scientists are, lyk, smart, y'know, and kanu is, lyk, totally dum, hahahahahahaha SHUT THE FISH UP.)

As noted film critic Roger Ebert once pointed out:

"To look at a list of [Keanu's] roles is to wonder how the directors of half his movies could have visualized him in the other half, and vice versa. This is the actor who made two of the most harrowing films of all time about teenage angst, "River's Edge" (1986) and "Permanent Record" (1988). And the same actor who played one of the key predecessors of the dumb-and-dumber movement, in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) and "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991). The same actor who was an average, if troubled, teen in "Parenthood" (1989) and an 18th century rake in "Dangerous Liaisons" (1989) and a male hustler in "My Own Private Idaho" (1991)."

(source: "On the Set: Checking out Chain Reaction in Chicago")

Roger Ebert said that, and he's one of the most famous film critics in the world. He should know his stuff.

So much for Keanu's supposed one-note identical performances in which he "always plays himself/Neo/Ted/braindead robot on drugs/a tree". His filmography - and the roles he has taken on with varying degrees of success - is seriously diverse, and any unbiased viewer should be able to see that.

Keanu has been repeatedly typecast as two very different kinds of characters, as anyone familiar with his critics will know. There's the party (Tedfish genus) whose idea of Keanu is of some spaced-out blissed-out effervescent stoner with a single-digit IQ who can't be taken seriously and says 'whoa' a lot, and there's the party (Neofish genus) whose idea of Keanu is of some expresionless monotone depressed robot with no sense of humour who says 'whoa' a lot.

If that's not split-personality, I don't know what is.

I've long been dying to know what would happen to critics if Keanu were to play those two typecasts in a single film, and while the Jekyll and Hyde roles don't exactly call for either Neo or Ted, Keanu has definitely shown himself capable of such a contrast, as the critics unwittingly prove every day.

This is the actor whom director Pat O'Connor once called "a study in contradictions" ("Keanu - the enigma"), an opinion repeatedly reinforced by many a person who has met him:

Reeves strikes me, at this point, almost precisely the way he does in movies - a guy so tangled up in contradictions that even if he'd like to spill the beans, he couldn't find the can opener.
- "Doin' time on planet Keanu"

In interviews Reeves rambles like he really is the stoned Ted of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Or a rather smart man whose inarticulate pronouncements are a smokescreen to protect his privacy. There are journalists who swear he's an oaf and there are journalists who swear he's a genius of prevarication.
- "Keanu - the enigma"

There is the neatly dressed, well-scrubbed, polite Keanu. There is the cranky T-shirt-and-jeans wearing, road-weary biker, and there is the ponderous, soul-searching surfer poet, not to mention the scruffy, unshaven Big Star actor trying to escape his innate prettyboyness.
- "The sum of his parts"

Keanu's rather extraordinary contradictions go a long way towards summing him up as an actor. He became well-known for playing a Whoa! Dude!-type character in the Bill & Ted movies - but possesses an intense sensitivity that has infused his best film incarnations with an empathetic vulnerability. He hates giving interviews - but once he loosens up has more to say than your average movie star. He is interested in working on a wide range of characters, not just rehashing the same old stuff: take the cocky, talented, fast-talking lawyer Keanu plays in Devil's Advocate - he's light years away from the taciturn and tough cop who stops the bus in the global blockbuster Speed.
- "Devil in Disguise"


That aside, what I'm afraid of here is that the film will take the special-effects extravaganza route and leave little room for the split-personality thing to be conveyed through acting rather than CGI; this would be my view regardless of whether or not Keanu were in the role. The fact that this film is meant to be a modernisation of the tale might seem to indicate some degree of that might be happening, but the script writer is apparently the sort who steers away from that kind of thing, so there may yet be hope.

To end off, I leave you with this extract from Chris Heath's 2000 Keanu article "The Quiet Man":

I ask him what he was like when he was young.

"Private," he says. "Probably a pretty private kid."

Private how? Kids are usually pretty social.

"I was pretty social, too," he says.

Private but pretty social?

"Yeah." He half-smiles. "It's a particle, it's a wave."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Keanu's acting mad skillz

(First posted on IMDb under a thread about Keanu's acting.)

Sometimes I think his performances look better on hindsight, but not while watching them. And then there's how for just about every single film he does, there are both people declaring it his best work ever and other people declaring it his worst ever, both among fans and critics alike. I've always found that disparity to be utterly fascinating, especially since I end up part of it as well - there are some Keanu films that other people like a lot that I got bored watching and didn't think he was that great in (most notably Point Break; seriously what's so wonderful about it?), and other films which I liked that others declared crap.

Maybe it's a matter of different people considering different kinds of acting to be good. I usually look out for naturalness in the role and character portrayal, regardless of how emotional (or not) a performance may be, because there are a lot of people in this world who are naturally deadpan or wooden and so I don't think such a performance should be necessarily considered bad. As long as I'm convinced that the character could be a real person, that there's that consistency there where the real Keanu becomes near or totally invisible, then I would consider it a good performance.

I think it's interesting that my very first impression of Keanu way before I became a fan was that he was 'default', like a template of a person, one who was similarly no one and yet had the potential to be anyone - a blank canvas. I think I was about 11 then and The Matrix was the only one of his films that I had watched, and that sense of defaultness came across kind of strongly to the extent that I could almost visualise him in just about any role; you just had to add stuff on to create a character. The basic form was already there.

I guess that has both positive and negative aspects to it, but since becoming a fan about four years after that I have come across other critics who have said very similar things about Keanu and his acting style - for example as someone "who has a face audiences can project a lot of stuff into." (Colleen Murphy, "Keanu's Excellent Adventure" by Lyle Slack - MacLean's (Ca), January 23, 1995)

I have a theory that, when it comes to a performance, Keanu completely erases his own personality before taking on the character's - such that if the character is not particularly strong, the lack of depth shows through beneath it. Whereas with other actors, they tend to mould their own personality to fit the character, or take on the character's personality on top of their own, so that if the character is not particularly strong, the actor's own personality will still shine through and provide that extra depth and meaning to the performance. The downside of this is that there will always be that part of them that goes with the role and cannot be separated from it.

So when people talk about how they always see Keanu rather than the character, it's not really true - to date I don't think there has been a single role where Keanu's character came across as anything at all like him (as seen in real life interviews). What they're seeing instead is that blank space that lurks beyond the surface of the character, the void where Keanu used to be. It's not him. He's not there.

But when the character is strong and complete and three-dimensional enough, it can fill that void and result in what looks like a great performance.

That's one of my theories, anyway.

Another has to do with how Keanu is a perfectionist, and as such I would like to volunteer the possibility that his "bad" performances are not really bad; they are just too perfect to the extent of seeming fake. Bear with me.

I did a university term paper on how humanity and perfection are incompatible, because human characteristics like, say, emotions and spontaneity have a tendency to go against "perfect" qualities like cold rationality and order, such that the closer something is to perfect, the less human it is.

A robot or a computer would be a good example. They work on pure logic; everything makes sense in there, everything is neat, and ordered, and there is no chaos (unless you're running on Windows Vista which sucks). If you get a computer to compete against a human in something like maths, or a chess game (with exceptions), chances are that the computer will far surpass the human's performance. Yet when it comes to producing realistic emotions, the computer would never be able to get anywhere near the performance level of the human. It is something that requires a lack of perfection.

So back to Keanu the self-identified perfectionist. People have commented on how his earlier performances were much more open and natural, but how he started to close up as he got older - and as he started wanting to take his craft seriously and be good at it, doing takes over and over again until they were just right.

But I don't think there can ever be an objective level of "just right" when it comes to something as subjective as portraying human emotions in acting, although I think it is that imaginary objective level that Keanu usually aims towards. Resulting in carefully measured emotions, painstakingly calculated nuances of personality, no wrong moves, no stray gesture, no out-of-place expression, no slips of unasked-for feeling, everything perfect and flawless. Like a computer. Perhaps inhuman, robotic, wooden, but perfect.

It's probably important how some of Keanu's best performances were the ones he said he had "fun" doing - Bill & Teds, The Gift - rather than the ones he spent days or months of research and training over. Look at the amount of work he put into the Matrix sequels as compared to the first part of the trilogy - and then see how much more inferior his resulting performance was when juxtaposed against the first Matrix. It seems like when he feels less pressure to perform, his acting becomes freer and more natural, less tense. There are also more technical flaws, but the result is a more human delivery.

Many of his film co-stars have mentioned how Keanu would do multiple takes when he's dissatisfied with his acting, and from there you get his film performances, constantly slammed by critics. But then there's his stage turn as Hamlet - something which Keanu was very nervous over partly because he only had one take and no chance to redo it if he messed up - which got him some of the best reviews of his entire career. I'm pretty sure there's a link there somewhere.

Ironically, if true, this means that in order for Keanu to become a better actor, his performances need to be more imperfect.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interesting things about The Anu, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Keanu Fan

One day on Youtube, someone called TheVannieShow described Keanu's personality to be "as interesting as a tree branch". I objected, declaring The Anu to be one of the most interesting people on Earth. lollipopfop then asked which Earth I was talking about, saying that it couldn't possibly be this one (Alternate Universe fish, I say), and challenged me to name one interesting thing about Keanu.

I decided that naming just one interesting thing about The Anu would not do justice to his awesomeness, and my list wouldn't fit into the Youtube comment box, so I had to resort to a PM. Here it is, in all its edited glory:


1) He's probably got one of the most diverse range of films in Hollywood. He's done films in practically every genre I can think of - science fiction, comedy, drama, action, romance, horror, musical, children, gay movie, animation, fantasy, Shakespeare, family, sports, religious, thriller, etc. He's been quoted multiple times saying that he's not out to fill any particular niche area. He doesn't want to be "part of the Hollywood product machine". He's just there to act, and to do as may different kinds of roles as possible. He doesn't want to repeat himself.

2) His background, admittedly nothing he can be credited for, but lollipopfop didn't specify so I'm assuming it counts: He was born to a British mother and Hawaiian-Chinese father in Lebanon; parents divorced when he was two, mother remarried four times; grew up in Australia and New York before settling in Toronto; later drove out on his own to Hollywood when he was 19 with only a beaten-down car and $3000 to his name, because he didn't think that there would be much chance for him to pursue an acting career in Toronto.

3) He does not act at all like the typical Hollywood celebrity. For starters, even after becoming a millionaire, he spent a large part of his life homeless, living out of a single suitcase in a hotel, occasionally spotted - and photographed by incredulous paparazzi - sleeping on the streets next to stray animals and other homeless people. Someone reportedly once gave him money because they thought he was a beggar.

4) Which brings us to how he pays practially no attention whatsoever to his appearance, which is a great change from the majority of preening Hollywood stars. In his early days in Hollywood, his agents complained about his lack of presentability and how he looked like a homeless bum; his retort was that he was paid to act, not to look good. He has favourite clothes that he wears until they literally fall apart - one favourite pair of shoes was duct-taped up (and photographed by increasingly incredulous paparazzi) when it could no longer hold together on its own, despite him being more than able to afford many new ones. Same goes with his other clothes; an ancient red T-shirt is now pink. Two colours for the price of one. An excellent way to save.

5) He is an extremely private person who does not participate much in the Hollywood scene. He hates the limelight, was quoted in the mid 80s saying he never wanting to become super-famous because it would be "awful", and up to this day prefers to spend time on his own, reading, listening to music, or just thinking about life. He has described himself as "practically a celibate monk" when quizzed on whether he was gay (he says "No... but you never know") due to the lack of scantily-clad women hanging on his arm the way they hang on the arms of his peers. He keeps to himself a lot, and is very introverted, something rare among the Hollywood group.

6) Which brings us to how he's widely considered by many of his friends and co-stars to be one of the most well-read celebrities out there. His personal obsession is Shakespeare; he's committed whole plays to heart, and has been known to recite it in times of stress in order to calm himself down. He's also reputedly a brilliant chess player, and defeated Laurence Fishburne in 15 minutes.

7) Leading up to his intelligence - his IQ is reportedly 160. One of the most common adjectives used to describe him is 'intelligent', from people who know and/or have worked with him.

8) And yet people around the world still have the idea that he is dumb, courtesy of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which goes only to show how great a performance that role was.

9) He is dyslexic, and as such had difficulty in school - was expelled from several schools for talking too much, not sitting still (an interviewer once described him as an ADD poster child, and yet look at critics who complain about him just standing there in his films; compared to his energetically hyper off-the-walls, making funny faces at the camera, throwing out really funny jokes at regular intervals behaviour in real life, just standing still and giving the impression of woodeness probably takes a whole lot of effort and acting talent from him). He is meanwhile an autodidact, and did not let his disability affect his voracious appetite for books and learning. While other young Hollywood stars were out there partying and getting into trouble, he would be sitting in his trailer and reading books on acting technique and Philip K. Dick (his favourite author). Though he did do a lot of partying too, but was scared to a stop when his best friend River Phoenix died of a drug overdose; after that he became aggresively anti-drugs, all the more so when his biological father - whom he had not seen since he was a child - was arrested for being the head of a drug smuggling ring.

10) He doesn't own a computer. He doesn't see the need for one. He had one once, but used it only to play chess. When he needs to send messages to people, he either does so by hand or by typewriter, and sends the letter through snail mail. He doesn't like how e-mails are so easy to delete and forget about with a click of button.

11) His childhood ambitions included being a racecar driver, nuclear scientist, orchestra conductor or inventor. Part-time jobs he took up prior to acting included sharpening ice-skates, cutting trees, and being the manager of a pasta shop at 18, in which he made 150 pounds of pasta a day. Due in part to being Canadian, he is also a great ice hockey player (Cuba Gooding Jr. called him the best ice hockey player in Hollywood) and was voted MVP on his high school team.

12) One of his favourite pastimes is riding his motorbike along mountain roads late at night, WITH THE HEADLIGHTS OFF because he enjoys the thrill. This has resulted in several accidents, some of which nearly killed him. That however has not stopped him, though he admits to being more careful since.

13) Many of his friends, co-stars and fans who met him have described him as completely void of any ego usually expected of a Hollywood A-lister, extremely humble and modest, and not in a fake way - possibly partly due to extreme self-esteem problems resulting from his childhood. In early interviews, he expressed surprise and occasional anger at the way journalists kept praising him for various things - he doesn't think he's good looking at all (judging from his off-screen appearance - presumably the main times he looks into the mirror - this is justified), he doesn't think he's cool, he gets very disturbed by the idea of people making him into a role model (I do that; he'll probably hate me), he doesn't think he's that big a star - he calls all this "fiction", lies fabricated by the media in order to increase hype and get more money; and says that he's just an actor trying to improve every day, and wishes that people would stop making him out to be things he doesn't think he is. Time and again he's said that he's only "interested in becoming a better actor". He tries. He tries a lot. For that I respect him.

14) And he doesn't let what critics say get him down. He acknowledges the existence of bad reviews; he calls it "a drag", but that life has to go on, and he can't let things like that stop him from doing what he wants to do - and he loves acting, very much, calling it among other things one of the few times that he feels free.

15) Again, he doesn't want to be part of the Hollywood machine. Because of that he's risked mulitple instances of what other stars would have considered career suicide. He does the films that interest him, that he has a passion for, not those that would pay big or help advance his career. He turned down The Fly II to do a small indie film that paid him one-tenth as much; he turned down the offered $7 million for Speed II in order to join his best friends in a band tour, and then to play Hamlet in Canada, which admittedly was for him a dream come true, being the Shakespeare freak that he is - although in the days preceding it he was quoted as being terrified and having nightmares about forgetting his lines, especially seeing all the fans who had come from all over the world just to watch him; he gets stage fright, and on stage you only get one take.

16) He is extremely hardworking and dedicated to whatever project he signs up for. He will fight in the face of studios who wish to change the scripts to suit their money-making desires; he has fought for the integrity of his characters, or of the scripts, and been angry when major cuts or alterations were made that he felt undermined the script. Sometimes he fails - examples being Johnny Mnemonic, which started off as a cyberpunk black&white film noir piece but got inserted with a whole lot of pointless action and had chunks of story cut from it once Speed became the unexpected blockbuster of the summer; and The Replacements, which a fellow Keanu fan and friend of mine said was much, much better in its original draft when compared to the final product. For Speed, he initially wanted to turn down the role because he didn't like the way that it tried to set up situations explictly to force one-liners, and found the character of Jack Traven to be too flippant and too unlike the real SWAT policemen he had got to know as friends from the filming of Point Break; fortunately for him, the director agreed, they hired another scriptwriter, and together they set about revising the script to make it into the final product.

17) "Keanu is not and never has been money motivated", says Lewis Baumander, who directed him in Hamlet and in an 1980s production of Romeo & Juliet, where he had been "casted on the spot" as Mercutio - something that Baumander almost never did with any role, but he had been blown away by Keanu's talent and passion for the part. Keanu has been known for taking salary cuts - he did it for The Devil's Advocate so that they could afford to hire Al Pacino; he did it for The Replacements so they could afford to hire Gene Hackman; he gave up all his box-office takings for the Matrix sequels (turned out to be $38 million) so the Wachowskis could afford to complete the special effects. He also bought Harley Davidson motorcycles for each of the twelve stuntmen who worked with him on The Matrix. His younger sister Kim suffers from leukemia; Keanu has as a result donated whole lots of money towards cancer research, and was one of the people involved in the recent Stand Up 2 Cancer event. His friends have meanwhile described him as one of the most generous people they know; Keanu says he doesn't need the money, because he already has more than enough to last him centuries.

18) He is very, very determined to do anything he sets his mind to. He's also a perfectionist, which he admits as one of his flaws and something that he's tried to work at. In an early Coca Cola commercial in which he played a bike racer, he did research on professional bikers and discovered that they usually shaved their legs in order to minimise air drag. So he shaved all the hair off his legs. For a commercial (It's up on Youtube; here you go ->, in which no one would be able to see leg hair even if they looked. He has since done the same for just about every role he's ever taken on. Co-stars have been quoted as freaking out at the sheer volume of notes that Keanu comes up with for his characters, and how deeply he researches each one - again, he loves reading despite his dyslexia; for his role in Little Buddha, he got hold of a whole lot of books on Buddhism, deprived himself from television or any form of fiction for the whole period of research, and just sat in his room and read through all those books; for his role in A Walk in the Clouds, he did massive research into World War II, the life of a soldier, American history; talked to a bunch of war veterans, all that. For The Matrix, the Wachowskis gave him a reading list of heavy philosophical books that he had to finish before even opening a page of the script - this was one of the things that turned a lot of other potential leads away, but Keanu got straight into it and read everything. And he was rewarded for it - The Matrix is awesome.

Thus concludes one soupcon of why The Anu is a very interesting person, and why anyone who disagrees must come from an alternate universe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thoughts on extended TDTESS trailer

An extended trailer of The Day the Earth Stood Still previewed on FOX yesterday; for those of you who didn't catch it (or who, like me, are non-American and who have to pay for our lack of American politics with an equal lack of early-access to videos), here you go:

Has some great moments in it, but overall I'm not as hyped up over it as I would have liked to be.

I can sense a lot of potential in there. This film definitely has the potential to be really great, but somehow that held more promise when all I knew of it was a short two minute trailer. It had more mystery then; this one shows us more, takes away some of that mystery, and if the whole film continues with this same kind of standard I think I may find it a disappointment. I expect it to be sufficiently entertaining, sure, enough to make me want to catch the thing in theatres, but what I've seen so far makes me doubt that it would reach that level of all-out-awesome that I had been hoping from the time this project was announced.

I can't really put my toe (fingers are overrated and hurt from too much typing) on what's wrong, though. Maybe it's a bit of everything: I get the sense that they're holding back, a teasing sort of "we could have done this and it would have been the most amazing thing you've ever seen and made you pee in your pants, but instead we decided to show some concern for your personal hygiene and chose to do this instead, so tough luck, hahaha." Or maybe it's just me.

Because the first part of that extended trailer (and presumably the first part of the film) was great. The whole hey-look-there's-a-strange-object-in-outer-space-defying-gravitational-pull-OH-NOEZ-IT'S-COMING-TOWARDS-US!!!11 was exciting in a traditional science-fiction sort of way, the kind of thing that continues to be exciting even though it's been done over and over again.

Then the pace faltered a little when they all trooped out to go check out the landing spot of the UFO.

Here I'd admit to some personal bias - I do have some vague form of agoraphobia. Open spaces with people running about = not good. I like small confined places. I laugh at claustrophobists. My idea of a dream house is an underground, labyrinthine affair with no windows. I love being in submarines. I like being lost in buildings. The movie Cube ranks among my ten favourite of all time for its claustrophobic awesomeness. I draw the line at being buried alive, but you get the idea.

So, a bunch of scientists in radiation suits mucking about a wide open forest looking for an alien kind of killed the excitement of the earlier scenes for me, as did the later scenes again in the wide open spaces. I don't like wide open spaces. Especially in a science-fiction film, because I tend to associate sci-fi with high tech stuff - like buildings, not so much the environment, but then again this film supposedly deals partly with the environment so I see why they did that.

But then they're back in the wonderful indoors! In what I'd love to think is a vast underground secret scientific laboratory with no windows - if it turns out I'm wrong, I will be sad. And then what I currently consider the best part of that extended trailer - them trying to revive the alien in the case.

(The scene does however suffer from a lack of tentacles. When I see an alien thrashing about in a case, there's a part of me that naturally expects to see tentacles. One usually does not expect in such moments to see Keanu Reeves, or Michael Rennie for that matter; one expects TENTACLES. CTHULHU AWAKENS AND STIRS IN THE DARK.

^ See, that's the kind of thing I mean when I say this thing feels like full of untapped potential.

...I suddenly think that Tim Burton should have made this film. I would have loved to see what he would have done with it.)

But this is going off-tangent, and my personal bias should preferably not come into play here, so going back to the topic, and since this is a Keanu-themed blog, back to Keanu:

I'll admit that I had hoped for better; well maybe not better, just a different interpretation of Klaatu. Before the fish start being happy, I would add that I definitely don't think it's a matter of lack of acting ability on Keanu's part. It's just that his take on Klaatu differs from what I had in mind, though I don't really know what I had in mind. It's just... I don't know, the idea of Keanu-playing-alien could have been so much... more, and definitely within his scope, judging from past performances. That depth isn't quite reached here, though I hope that maybe it gets there over the course of the film; although as Klaatu supposedly gets gradually more human, that might not happen.

There's something that feels too toned-down about his performance in the clip, but at the same time, while watching the thing, I don't know how else he could have done it. And it's not just Keanu, because the toned-down feeling continues even when he's not on screen. So maybe it's a script problem, but the dialogue itself seems fine too.

It's frustrating.

So far the only conclusion I can reach is that the wrongness has something to do with the film editing. Maybe some parts could have been cut differently. Or... well... comma... George...


One thing is for certain, though... If anyone saw any Ted in Klaatu, they need an CAT scan. NOW.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

For posterity's sake.

I wrote and posted this on IMDb some time back in response to yet another post making the highly questionable declaration that all of Keanu's characters are exactly alike.

So here goes; an analysis of those of Keanu's characters that I know well enough to analyse.

[Literature student cum writer]

Neo - the introverted loner geek and unwilling saviour stressed by his destiny because of his low self-confidence; Ted Logan, the cheerful, trusting teenager who sees the good in everyone and isn't that conventionally intelligent, but with a quick creative mind and a sense of awe at the world; John Constantine, hardened world-weary exorcist who sees the world through cynical eyes and takes orders from none but himself, armed with his own personal moral code, stubborn to the point of personal detriment; David Allen Griffin, slightly psychotic serial killer who enjoys playing with people's minds;

Jjaks Clayton, somewhat confused guy who means well and is just trying to make his own sense of things; Tommy, the eccentric teenager with an impulsive streak who's a bit of a prankster; Matt, lost in his frustrated despair at the world, sometimes feeling like the only sane one around whom no one understands; Alex Wyler, regular nice guy, but filled with growing desperation at the lack of direction in his life; Donnie Barksdale, angry wife-beater, who knows his strength and is not afraid to use it, and who would be fun to poke with a stick; Johnny Utah, brimming with self-confidence bordering on arrogance, spirited, crazy and carefree and wild;

Kevin Lomax, torn between pride and his conscience, suffering quietly the moral consequences of his actions that he pushes aside and tries to bury, hating himself for the things he does and living a life of denial; Siddharta, the Buddha, raised sheltered from the hurts of the world, full of innocent horror at the harsh realities of life; Scott Favor, recalcitrant rich not-straight kid, rebellious for the sake of rebellion, quietly manipulating others for his own selfish ends, betraying their trust and leaving;

Conor O'Neill, kind of twitchy and always on-edge with a somewhat volatile personality, a messed up guy suffering from alcoholism and addictions and gambling problems and all sorts of other things in his screwed up life, and sometimes he just wants to give up but there's a defiant fighting spirit in him that won't let him do so; Julian Mercer, womanising doctor who seems simultaneously puzzled and amused with life; Jack Traven, quiet jock prone to sudden explosions of temper, a person with good intentions but not much ability to properly execute them;

Shane Falco, the perpetually accident-prone, going doggedly about his life and viewing his better past with nostalgic resignation; Perry Lyman, philosophical dentist who can't quite decide what he thinks about life, which frustrates him, secretly, in bursts of private controlled anger that the public only glimpse, tempered with a paternal, almost motherly gentleness; Paul Sutton, polite gentleman who just wants to do what's right, even if at his own expense; Tod Higgins, somewhat of an airhead, with a one-track mind that enables peaceful oblivion to the possible consequences of his actions, living for the moment and not quite conscious of either the past or future;

Tom Ludlow, rough foul-mouthed cop, brutal, working on his own terms with his own sense of justice and not caring about what others think of him; Nelson Moss, arrogant self-obsessed workaholic with no time for others; Eddie Talbot, a teen with a good heart, emotionally damaged by his family problems but hiding it and presenting a cheerful facade to the innocent parties, while in private is mired by feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, and a deep-seated anger at his family that sometimes turns violent; Jesse Walker, energetic, talkative, won't effing shut up, touchy-feely, impulsive and yet still very much a kid;

Eric: No one ever cares about Eric. Seriously this guy is the only of Keanu's characters who doesn't have a single photo on any of the three main fansites. Poor guy. People don't know he exists. I don't know anything about him other than that he has a motorbike; Bob Arctor, still trying to hold his life together as his mind slowly breaks down, angry at the system and the inhumaness of the almost-robotic people who run society; Eddie Kasalivich, eager nerd trying to prove himself;

Marlon James, practically brain-dead drug addict, sleepwalking through life; Ron Petrie, rebellious smart aleck, defiant of authority but it's mostly just an act, for when it gets down to it he still has his own internal sense of right and wrong which he feels pressured to follow; Kip, dazed fellow, an introvert and a bit of a socially-inept weirdo who's not too aware of his surroundings, and yet someone who can hurt people, mostly out of avoidance, because he's someone who tries not to get too involved in things and prefers to keep his distance.

[/Literature student cum writer]


There are more, but I don't know them as well and so I'll just leave them out here. I haven't even watched most of those films; what I know was garnered from things like pictures and short Youtube clips. It takes talent for an actor to be able to project a character and have people 'get it' in the span of five minutes or so.

They make a brilliant ensemble cast, seriously. Characters who are all alike do not make brilliant ensemble casts. Ergo Keanu's characters are not all alike. QED.